Matinee


He never wore to my recollection
any white linen suit
or that trademark white derby hat

instead the Charlie Chan
I knew
sported broad striped
pullover jerseys left untucked
over flappy grass-stained gray trousers
and old scuffed-up gym shoes,
a pair of ratty canvas Pro Keds

and fought for
the forces of evil.

A big and fat Chinese kid
who ate too many char sui bos
maybe he went mad
bearing the curse
of his fictional namesake

for beneath the rice bowl haircut
his scrunched rounded face
only darkened those long arched
Fu Manchu eyebrows
staring frightful terrors
making my life around him
pure hell.

My nightmare recurred
down the street on 23rd Place
underneath the willow tree
Mom always told me to dart past

its weeping green tresses
infested with piranha caterpillars
she swore will rip your skin off

near Quong Yick General Produce
where the proprietor Fat Boy Dick
two-wheeled wooden crates
of fresh bok choy and bittermelons
in and out of the steel walk-in door

spewing frosted vapory trails
of dragon smoke

three houses east of St. Therese School
in the sandpaper two-flat
where Charlie Chan lived.

He grew up next door
too close next to me
even when Mom,

whose best friend as luck goes
is his older sister,

dropped me off with her
(and Charlie)
before heading to work
at the shoe factory all day.

Often he waited after school,
a prison guard accompanying
his doomed inmate to the electric chair.

Without reprieve at the anointed hour
he pulled the switch
charged up the elongated glass tube
sparkling on demons and monsters
from the depths of his purgatory.

All resurrected and reanimated
through his flesh
as he stuck out both arms
teetered toward me, eyes rolled up
only to show zombie white

or dragged his lame left leg
heavily behind him,
clawed hands ready to strangle
my bare helpless throat.

I ran away

but Chan the merciless
hunted me down
in graphic detail,

until his sister said, "Stop scaring the kid."

Paralyzed with fear
I wished for
the other Charlie Chan,
the virile Honolulu detective
who apprehended countless crooks
without a karate chop

the yellow good guy,
a hero for the wronged

to rescue victimized me
from his outcast twin.

Grown up
I barely recognized him; he changed
dieted twenty years ago,
losing about fifty pounds
and pompadoured his hair

like Elvis,
replete with satin jacket,
used to.